Happy New Year! As our updates are always a month old, we will be talking about things happening this past year. So even though it is news that is so old that it happened “last year,” I hope you still enjoy it!
One of the highlights of this past month was getting to help out with the Christmas Party at Iglesia Esperanza. This is a church that is connected with the ministry Su Casa that we have recently started volunteering with. We had spoken to Cecy at the church and let her know that we are available for any special events that they may have. As soon as she heard this, she was like…”Yep…clear your calendars…we have plenty to do!” Well…something like that. She first asked for our help with their Fall Festival that we were able to help out with in November. We forgot to take pictures, but it was a lot of fun! Throughout the conversation, the idea came out to have piñatas at the Christmas Party (because every good party has to have a piñata, right?). And then Cecy had an even better idea…why don’t we make the piñatas? By “we,” she meant us and thus our piñata making careers started.
To begin with, we called in reinforcements and Austin came to our rescue. It was honestly Ximena’s biggest stressor for the month as she kept on saying, “I’ve never made a piñata before…I don’t even know where to begin.” After lots of Papier-mâché and tons of streamers, the piñatas were done and stuffed! They actually turned out amazingly well! At least we know that we have a career as Piñata Makers if we ever need something to fall back on.
The Christmas party was a week before Christmas and we again called on reinforcements (Austin and Peyton) to help out. It was truly a beautiful time. I don’t know if you have every had those moments where time sort of stands still and everything makes sense or feels like home. Well, this event ministered to us more than we could have imagined. At one point, we were sitting down, eating the meal with a room full of people who speak Spanish, and it just felt like being home again. Home…where you bust the guts out of a piñata, where you have tons of food made by many different hands, games where you make a fool out of yourself, and time spent with friends. Truly beautiful! After everything was over, we stayed to help clean up and try to get everything in order. One of our friends who is a part of the church came over and gave us some of the most encouraging words we have received in a while. He said, “Thank you guys so much…usually it is just the same people who are volunteering and cleaning. It is nice to have extra hands.”
For Christmas, we had the best present ever! And it actually got here a few days before Christmas! Since we have always been on the mission field since before our kids were born, our kids have never been able to spend Christmas with the grandparents. I know this is normal for a lot of missionary kids, but we decided to push hard to have their first Christmas with their grandparents. And they did! Dino and Melissa came from Belize for a week to spend time with the kids and spoil them. We even made Sand Tarts (which Richard’s grandmother used to make) and celebrated some traditions together. It was truly the best gift ever! Santi even got to play around with Grandpa after he fell asleep on the couch!
While they were in town, Dino had told the kids something the first day that we had moved to Tennessee. He said that once we had a house (if it had trees) that he would build them a tree house. Our kids took that as a solemn oath and even rejected houses when we were first buying if they didn’t have trees. So, during the coldest weather of the year (it was 18° when we started!), we built a treehouse!!! It was 3 days in the bitter cold and thankfully we had Austin helping us again. It was truly painful to build it, but it was beautiful when it was done. The kids were so excited!!!
As soon as the grandparents left, we drove to Ohio for 3 days to spend New Year’s Eve with Ximena’s family. For this celebration, we were able to do it 100% Ecuadorian and it was fun! We bought a huge, pig leg at an international market in Memphis and took it with us to Ohio, as well as stopping to get a few fireworks on the way. December 31st was spent cooking and sledding down the snow hills! We are usually used to celebrating this on the coast of Ecuador, where it is usually about 90°…nope…it was -8°…yes…negative…when we went outside to blast off the fireworks, which is the custom in Ecuador. We literally had to run outside and light a few and then run back inside to thaw out our hands. The kids did a few sparklers, but even that lasted about 2 minutes! The food was amazing, the celebration was so much fun, and the time spent with family was beautiful. It was so great to continue traditions (even dancing!) with our kids that we plan to do for many years to come!
So as you can see, we had a party-hardy December! There are so many other details and stories, but I guess those will be ones that we share with the grandkids someday! We are praying blessings over your lives this morning and thank you for taking the time to read our update.
~Richard and Ximena